Background story to one the funniest college applications you’ll ever read:
In my senior year of high school, I wondered what would happen if I applied to a college as a joke. My friends couldn’t wait to see what Nathan Chow humor I could sprinkle into something as serious as a college application. They insisted and begged for me to do it. I finally found a university with no application fee, which made me willing to spend time on this extra application.
When I was done, I submitted the application below to a place called Hamline University.
Name: Nathan Chow
Nickname: Nate Dawg Yo
Do you have any family members who are alumni of Hamline?: No, none were that lucky.
High School: Franklin High School, pubic school
Hobbies: soccer, juggling, movies, eating (ham is my favorite food!!!)
Activities you plan to pursue: yes
Proposed area of study: fashion design and criminal justice
Why do you want to attend Hamline?: I like ham.
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[Written in different colored pencils, the evaluation had a brownie smudge on it and was about how I earn good grades only because I give brownies to all my teachers. The “teacher” said that any professor would be lucky to have me. On the side of the recommendation, there was a sticker that you would get at a pediatrician: a cartoon bear holding a ribbon that said “I was brave today!”]
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Essay Prompt: Describe a significant event in your life.
Once upon a time, there was a significant event that shape my life. It changed my view of life like a worm changes into a butterfly. And just like the worm, I change for the good. It was a positive influence. I had always been thinking that people in America don’t like to mix like a salad in a salad bowl.
But then I saw a event that changed my view of the salad in a salad bowl. This was my significant event that shapes my life. A little girl I saw wore a pink outfit that was a dress with white polkadots making her look like a Dalmasion dog except white is pink and black is white. She walked along and hummed a song so happy. All of a suddenly, a squirrel jumped out of a tree and lands on her head.
Wow, I told myself. “She will be scared.”
But it was too late. The squirrel skratched her face like a feirce wolf skratching. In an analogy, the squirrel was to a wolf as his skratch was to this skratch. In pain, the little girl cried out very very loud. The girl was African American.
A white Crustacean man was nearby too like the tree. As soon as the squirrel skratched the girl, the man dropped his hotdog he was eating. He jumped to the girl sideways like a Matrix move. “Nooo!” he cried out just as very loud as the girl. He slapped the squirrel off the girls’ face and risking his hand to be bited or skratched. This was a true hero. The man could’ve been infected with rabies. The man could’ve been a contendor. The man could’ve been dead by dying. But he didn’t care. In alarm of the African girl he tried to save her immedately. He also didn’t care about his new hotdog. To save the girl, this man heroically dropped his weiner.
This is a story of how races can interact to save each other, a African girl and a Crustacean man.
With oration and languor, my ersatz was rashly changed. A persnickety of machination to accost me was such an epiphany. Please, hitherto unknown to me, elegy through zenith was apex unity—fruition sense resonant togetherness. Accept for the sacrilege, the rest of the lugubrious had known sententious existence. Me was no witness, but the raucous event perfidious had insight the powwow, helping precipice realize facsimile races fallacy mingle. America had gamut born, obloquy with occurrence this kibitzer, I lugubrious how zo-o-phyte can rise above differences and save lives. With diversity, a Crustacean man saved an African girl from a fighting squirrel. Wow. God bless America.
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Admitted with an $8000/year scholarship.
Hide yo’ kidz, hide yo’ wife. Seems like everyone is applying to colleges, grad schools, med schools, and so on right now. I hope the teens at my workplace, my freelance clients, and my friends all got a kick out of this!
Below are some disclaimers about my joke, as well as a few notes and lessons about college applications, college, happiness in life, and more.
As usual with my own writing, much of it is super personal and reflective. I hope that what is personal is universal:
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1) Because my guidance counselor had to handle some parts of my application, I was unable to hide my real straight-A’s transcript, higher-than-perfect GPA, class rank of 3 out of 327, a good mix of good to perfect AP scores, a high Writing score, and a perfect SAT II Math Level II score.
Those are the real things that got me into Hamline and all my “real” colleges. I wish I was valedictorian or had a perfect SAT Writing score too. But that’s the point: how much more perfect can someone be?
How can a GPA be “higher than perfect” anyway? Every year, it seems like the threshold for highest GPA gets higher and higher and students are more and more stressed.
When do you have to just tell yourself stop? When can you say, “I’m enough”? When can you just start laughing at it all? For me, I knew I did enough in four years in high school. I didn’t want to spend months writing a “better than perfect” essay. Even my “real” essays for my “real” colleges were written quickly.
If you have a history of academic excellence, stop stressing over every little detail in your applications. That advice might not get you into some top schools, but screw it. #YOLO!!!
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2) The “top” schools may not be the best schools for you anyway.
I hate to say this about my own alma mater, but Boston University was originally one of my safety schools. I got into schools higher ranked on U.S. News, but the more I read about BU after being accepted, the more I fell in love with it. BU’s College of Communication was a great fit for my interest in film, media, and writing. (Ironically, it’s a top school for communication. The strength of your program matters more than the university’s general ranking.) I read a lot about Boston being an amazing college town too.
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3) Your social life and people skills are just as important as academics.
I never hung out in high school. I was unconfident and miserable. I decided to change that the moment I stepped onto the BU campus my freshman year. (See http://bit.ly/ncbuchange for the full story.)
I completely changed my life and made hundreds of friends. I became good at leading people, getting the best out of people’s strengths, networking, making plans, reading emotions, using empathy, diffusing tense situations with humor, understanding needs and wants, forging connections with strangers, making people feel special, and showing gratitude. In short, I understood people.
Those skills are far more valuable in jobs, well-being, and life than anything else. Life isn’t about crunching numbers, writing essays, and memorizing facts.
In my journey to a good social life, I suffered a few late papers, bad grades, and even two F’s my freshman year of college. I was sick of academic perfection in high school and how little happiness that gave me. I was so brainwashed and convinced that social life meant more than academic success that this was my emailed excuse to a professor for having a late paper: “I finally found good friends in college, I’m happy, and I spent the weekend hanging out with them.” She gave me a little bit of leniency.
At the interviews for my last three jobs in education, I purposely mentioned my failures and how much I’ve learned about life balance and also how much I can fully understand a struggling or failing student. I got those jobs. I was happy at all of them. I’m happy at one of those right now.
After my freshman year, I finally learned to balance academics with social life. But who would’ve known that F’s in college would lead to employment?
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4) You get from college whatever you put into it.
By the time I graduated college, my entire life was transformed because of BU, people I was surrounded by, and Boston. I learned more about life than anything else at BU.
I hate to say this too, but no matter how much pride I have in Boston University, I’m sure my entire life would’ve been transformed wherever I went to college. As much as I credit BU and Boston for my current happiness, I think the positivity and eagerness that *I* brought to my first week in college and for four years did more for my life than anything else. No matter where you go–whether it’s an unknown community college or Ivy League school–you have the choice to be open-minded, motivated, and eager or close-minded, bored, and apathetic.
You don’t just *go* to college and wish for an education and life-changing experience. That responsibility is on yourself wherever you go.
If you know you’re a proactive person, be content that the outcomes of your college applications won’t determine your future. Your internal motivation and well-being are things that can’t be taken from you. Life will still be good.
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5) My intention with my Hamline “application” was to mock the college admissions process and see what I could get away with. After being accepted to Hamline with a scholarship, my friends said “You just shat on that school.”
I did not intend to belittle any specific university at any point in this joke. Hamline has a good reputation in the Midwest. It just happened to be the first place I found with no application fee. I hope–and I really think–my application was comic relief even to the admissions officers who read thousands of dull essays.
I may not have attended Hamline, but I thank it for teaching me this enduring lesson about life: Don’t take things too seriously. Laughter runs the world! When life gets tough, just remember ham.
I apologize if any rejected Hamline applicants and the Hamline community thought my application joke was inappropriate or unprofessional. Sorry. I will mail you a pound of delicious ham.
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#college #bostonuniversity #boston #happiness #lifetruthordare #howtospellcollege #humor
Ham photo: Free usage rights courtesy of Wikimedia.
The last paragraph of my Hamline essay was co-written by my then-8th-grade sister Jasmine Chow who I instructed to plug in any random dictionary words she didn’t know.
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If you liked this joke and article, please share and spread the laughter!! This blog runs on visits!
Best wishes in your college and grad school applications and all your future endeavors!!
Posted: September 28th, 2012 under boston university.
John Silber. BU president 1971-1996. Highest paid university president in the nation, doubled Harvard’s. Determined, ambitious, hopeful. Attracted and recruited Nobel Laureates Elie Wiesel, Derek Walcott, Saul Bellow and US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Endowment from $18 million to $430 million. Balanced budget. Created BU’s innovative partnership with Chelsea public schools. Founded BU Academy. Tripled BU’s property holdings. Tsai Performance Center, Huntington Theatre, Photonics Center, Metcalf Center for Science, SMG building. Family man. Loyal, dependable, committed. Socratic, academic, forever on quest for knowledge. Honest, assertive, uncensored. Author Tom Wolfe said of him: “There aren’t many left who say what they mean, and mean what they say.” Controversial, controversial, controversial. Creator of BU’s super strict guest policies, lasted until 2007. Chief architect of MCAS exams. Unyielding, outspoken, opinionated. Often called an academic bully. “Grate on their sensitivity? I want to grate on their minds,” he said of his teacher methodology. “What you call provocative, I call educative.” Short-tempered. Blunt, testy, irritable. Love him or hate him, John Silber arguably–or undoubtedly–did more for BU than any other figure. He laid the foundation for BU’s growth and is probably a reason why BU’s students rank #3 for happiest in the nation today. May he rest in peace and may his legacy continue. (But whatever you do, just remember that PSY, of “Gangnam Style” fame, went to BU a year *after* Silber’s presidency.)
– Nathan Chow
Boston University, Class of 2009
Get some sleep. Your health is the most important thing. Sacrifice some sleep. Your grades matter.
Cram. It works. Don’t cram. It doesn’t work.
Sit in the front of the class—ask questions, get known, discuss. Sit in the back of the class—you’re the most comfortable there and you can listen and read.
Meet anyone, everyone, anytime, every time. Network—the more the merrier. If you’re happy with the small group of friends you have, stick with them—they’re the ones who matter.
Pick the best and toughest and/or most well-known professors. They’re the most inspirational and you’ll learn the most and probably get a better recommendation. Pick the easiest professors. Are you really stupid enough to ruin your GPA by choosing good but tough professors?
Talk to your roommate about dorm issues you’re having. They’re gonna get worse. Ignore the issues. Is the conversation really worth it?
Keep in touch with your hometown friends—they know you best and they’re an important part of you. Cultivate college friendships—you’ve changed and you’re in a new place.
Party, go out, explore the town, stay in to laugh with friends. This life is about people and about having fun—right here, right now. Study, focus, lock yourself in the library. This life is about work and planning for the future.
Start a club, get an internship, get involved. When you graduate, job interviewers will ask you what you’ve done, not be picky between your 3.0 or 3.5. Be on track with good grades, good relations with professors, and good research experience. When you graduate, grad schools you apply to want to see solid academics.
I guess the only advice in college is:
Listen to yourself. What’s your mission? What’s your purpose? What’s best for yourself? What makes you happiest? Only you know what’s best and only you are in control of your life. Stay true to yourself—but when something whispers in your ear that you might be wrong, don’t be afraid of listening to it. Change a bit, experiment, balance.
– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009
Posted: June 3rd, 2011 under live better.
Update: The project below was a success! Terri went on to win the grant. She had a huge support network and also worked hard in public relations. My friends, readers, and I were just a small part of the hundreds or thousands of Terri’s supporters in her victory. We will never know how big of a difference each of our daily votes made! Thank you to everyone who participated!
Do you believe in karma? Do you believe that good things come back to you? Help me make a statement about that.
I need as much help as possible on a little project of mine, and I would really love to ask for a favor from all my hundreds of readers, including you.
First of all, helping is free and will take 5 seconds a day. I promise.
(Vote at http://bit.ly/nckarma. You can vote every day until 6/17!!)
If you’d like to help but don’t have time to read my personal story, scroll down to the very bottom with “How to vote.” Otherwise, sit back and enjoy this ride that people have called “amazing,” “sweet”, and “touching”:
In April, when I visited Philadelphia, I lost some money for the first time in my life (actually the first time I lost anything!).
I’ve always considered myself to be one of the luckiest people I know. So as luck would have it, this was also the first time I ever packed two blank checks on a trip. I put an extra $40 and two checks in a beautiful and lucky Chinese red envelope and put that in my bookbag.
When my friends and I were buying Philly subway tokens, I was getting something out of my bookbag and must have dropped the red envelope. Throughout the day, I wasn’t aware I lost it, since it was meant for extra and emergency cash.
A few hours later, I received a Facebook message from a Terri Shockley, someone I didn’t know. She had picked up the envelope just because it looked pretty, found money inside, and found my name on the blank checks inside. Then she did her best to search for me online to return the envelope. (I thiiink I’m easily searchable, but I still thank her for all the time and effort she took in tracking down and pinpointing a Nathan Chow.)
I was back in Boston by the time we were able to talk on the phone about how to get the envelope back to me. Apparently, while she was searching for my name online and on Facebook, she also saw the video of my TED Talk on character education! She said that I must be someone who deserved good things to happen to me. We had a conversation about kindness, karma, and character education before I gave her my address to mail the envelope back to me.
Ever since being Facebook friends with Terri, I found out that she’s the Executive Director of Philadelphia’s Community Education Center, “a non-profit, community-based arts and education center whose mission is to strengthen the sense of shared community and culture among peoples of differing backgrounds and cultures through the arts.”
Awesome! Sounds like something I would participate in.
I also found out that the Community Education Center is currently in a challenge to win a $50,000 grant for renovations and new supplies.
There are ten similar organizations around the country in this challenge. The top five with the most votes will get the grant.
Terri Shockley, thank you for your kindness on a small level and for your passion for leading such an amazing non-profit arts center at a large level!
You’re the one who deserves good things in return!
I am inviting all my readers from across the world and all 1700 of my Facebook friends and their friends to vote for your center to get the $50,000 you deserve!
Thank you for such a warm and lasting memory of the City of Brotherly Love!! =)
=== In short: ===
– A stranger found my $40 and took the effort to track me down to return it.
– This stranger, Terri Shockley, leads a community arts center for dance, music, theatre, and much more. Her Community Education Center is in a competition to win $50,000 for renovations.
– In the competition, only the top five centers will win. Terri’s has been swaying back and forth between 4th, 5th, and 6th place!!
––> We need YOUR help to vote for the Community Education Center, for me to thank her for her small good deed, and most of all, to make a strong statement about how good things flow in the world!
=== How to vote: ===
– Take 5 seconds to go to http://bit.ly/nckarma. Enter your email. Press Submit. Then press Yes. That’s it!
– I purposely shortened the long link (originally kraft.promotions.com/maxwnational/front.do?housename=cec) to the bit.ly address above for you to memorize and visit whenever you’re bored!
– You can vote EVERY DAY until 6/17 (coincidentally Boston’s area code!).
– It is legal to vote with more than one email address! Vote five times a day until June 17th! Remember, the center just needs to be in the top five by 6/17!
– You won’t receive anything in your email.
– Invite lots of your friends too! Getting 50 new supporters is like voting 50 times a day!
– Join all the supporters through Facebook at this event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=208853572470627
Thank you for your help and for believing in karma. I’ve always believed that there’s a secret society of positive and all-loving people who love to give and serve––and that, magically, all the best things in the world usually happen to them.
By voting every day, helping here, and inviting all your friends, may all the best things come back to you too!! =)
♥ Nathan Chow
Hey high school seniors, it’s April. Colleges just decided your fate for the rest of your life. If you didn’t get into your top choice and you think your life will suck, you’re absolutely right.
A recent study by the Department of Education showed that where you go to college is the most accurate predictor of success in the future. If you want to strut in your best business clothes every day for the rest of your life and shove past people on the city streets while talking on your cell phone to your significant other about how you’re 2 minutes late to your next boring meeting and that, no, you actually do not have time to see your injured son in the hospital today, tomorrow, or anytime soon—and everyone thinks this is success, right?—then it is absolutely essential that you get into your first-choice college.
The study shows that an overwhelming majority of such people (for convenience’s sake, a year after the study, they coined the word “tool”) went to the college they most desperately wanted to attend—and that if the college was ranked in the top 10 by the U.S. News magazine the year they enrolled, then their chance for success and wealth was exponentially greater.
But the study dives deeper and addresses more than just wealth, impressive titles, and “success.” Even if you’re one of the very very few people in the world who just want to be happy (c’mon now, who wants that?), the national overplay of college decisions this month will still color everything you do for decades to come. The conductors of the study analyzed the art of starving artists who do what they love to do and whose happiness levels were higher than the average person. They found that, whether in paintings, novels, or songs, the second most common underlying reference, motif, or theme was college admissions (of course, by far, phallic objects remain number one).
In the last part of this groundbreaking study, interviewers asked over a thousand people on their dying beds what their greatest regret was in life. More than two-thirds responded that they still wish they could rewind back to high school and do everything the white bread way, put a check mark next to everything they were told to do, and get into a better college they could brag about on their resumes for the rest of their lives. They said that they might’ve found a different—and probably better—calling in life if they attended a better college and that being stuck with an alma mater that was only ranked #11 has given them hot flashes and reminders of their inferiority throughout their lives, often leading to serious stress, destructive behavior, and even diarrhea.
The conclusion of the study? If you received a skinny envelope from a top-notch college, then you are screwed with a capital S.
Happy April Fools’ Day!! =)
I certainly hope that was quite obvious.
Whether you’re applying to colleges, applying to internships, or applying to jobs, no matter what stage of life you’re in, just remember: big names, rankings, titles, fame, grades, salaries, and promotions don’t matter much.
People, purpose, laughter, and love matter so much more. People for this interconnected world. Purpose for having a sense of direction and meaning in life. Laughter for enjoying every day to the fullest. And love for caring deeply about anyone and everyone. They’re what life is really made of.
You may or may not have tried your best in high school. That’s behind you. And you may or may not have been accepted into your top-choice college. Just lead your beautiful life wherever you end up going, whether top choice, second choice, or last choice. Enjoy what you were given. Make the most of any route. Look forward to a fresh start. May you always make all the difference you can with all your gifts to the world and in whatever situation you are in. That’s your choice—not anyone else’s.
– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009